Easter 5

"Convicted... about the Faith and the Family"

St. John 16:5-15

Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor

+ In the Name of Jesus +

Let us pray:

Gracious heavenly Father, who sent forth Your Son to be born of a woman, the blessed Virgin Mary, and who by His holy incarnation caused her to be the very Mother of God, thereby crowning and honoring all motherhood; and who sent Your Son to the wedding at Cana, where He honored His mother and blessed marriage with the new wine of His Kingdom; so grant Your perpetual favor and blessing upon all of our wives and mothers, that they in turn may be a blessing to all their children, and to their husbands. Bless the memory of those of our mothers and wives who have passed on from this vale of tears, and leave us not comfortless. Be with widows and those who raise children without a father; be with the barren, to whom in Your infinite wisdom You have not granted children, that they may find joy in the life You call them to live.

We also ask You to uphold chastity in the minds and hearts of the young women and little girls of this congregation and of Your whole Church, that they may guard and honor their wombs and their whole bodies knowing that the privilege of motherhood is one that God chooses to bless within a Christian marriage. Give them also the holy desire to be blessed by You with a Godly husband and with children, especially in this wicked world obsessed with self-indulgence and death, that they may bring up godly men and women themselves who will bring honor to both parents and to You, O God.

Endue in our young men and little boys such a respect for motherhood, that they may seek chaste and godly women who desire to be mothers and Godly wives themselves. Grant repentance and consolation by the working of Your Holy Spirit to those who have sinfully avoided, neglected, or scorned the gift of motherhood and the gift of Holy Marriage, or to any who have committed sins against children or spouse – either knowingly or in ignorance – that they might find joy in the forgiveness of sins which the Child of Mary, Your Son, has purchased for all people.

To this end, grant also to Your Holy Christian Church, who is the Mother of us all, and the very Bride of Christ Himself, prosperity in her faithfulness to You, that we through the pure milk of Your Word gain everlasting joy, and rise up here and on the day of judgment to call her blessed. In the name of Jesus we pray: Amen.

Earlier this month, the Gallup Polling organization did their annual nationwide poll of some 1000 adults weighted across all of America on their opinions about the moral acceptability of various practices. The results show a sad state of affairs for our culture, for our nation. Everything is permissible, now, people are saying, even if they themselves are not themselves regularly participating in questionable behavior. It is the polar opposite of the prayer we just lifted up to God in heaven.

73% of Americans find divorce morally acceptable, 69% say that sexual relations between unmarried men and women is acceptable, and 63% are okay with homosexual practices. 62% find it acceptable to conceive and give birth to a baby outside the bonds of marriage, 57% are okay with doctor-assisted suicide, 43% with abortion, 36% with teenagers fornicating before marriage, 36% with the use of pornography (the actual usage is no doubt higher), and 17% find polygamy acceptable. All of these are all-time high percentages in the history of the polling data since they’ve collected it.

But the Word of God stands against all of these practices – life and the family as God has created them to be and as He has ordained them to be in His Word are always to be affirmed and welcomed and trusted, at every stage, under every circumstance. To reject God’s will in the holy Ten Commandments comes from unbelief, a lack of trust that God will provide all things for each person in the world, in God’s good time, that God is just, right, holy in all these things, and that God will indeed be their God.

It is just as our Lord says in today’s Gospel,

[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world… concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.

Giving such answers to the pollsters are your friends and neighbors and co-workers, and even your family members. Maybe even you are tempted to roll with the tide of the culture sometimes and in some circumstances. We should all repent, and right now, be on our knees, and thank God that He does not hold us all accountable for where things are, and that we should pray for repentance and change in our society. It’s well past time to repent of this unbelief, and to repent of any time when you have said in your words and deeds that what God ordains is not good for you or for those around you, and that you know better. Honest hearts stand convicted by the Law, and the Holy Spirit that preaches it.

But be convicted about something else, too. [The Holy Spirit] convicts the world concerning righteousness. That is to say, be convicted as well today that God has seen our wretched state, before the world’s foundation. He knew that those He created in His image would of their own free will reject and lose that image. The kind of God we have is so zealous and jealous for those He has created, that He went through with it all even though He knew just how rebellious and wretched and unforgivable we would become – God already knew those poll numbers. God already knew that you would fall for temptation in your own lives, God already knew that you would be permissive for your own lusts and desires, as well as for others. God already knew from before the beginning of time of the rapid decline of this and every great civilization in this world’s history that has ever risen up and fallen down hard, and all who contribute to that rise and fall.

And through it all, mindful of His mercies great, He planned for my salvation and yours. He turned to you and me a father’s heart; He did not choose the easy part: but gave His dearest treasure.

When Jesus says in today’s Gospel that He is going away to the Father who sent Him, He means that He is doing His Father’s will, through the suffering and death of the cross. He is going away to the cross to cleanse His bride, to make her spotless and pure again, by His blood. He came to fulfill the Law that we could not fulfill, to set the world free from sin and sorrow and the bitter death of hell itself. He came to bring us the advantage, the good, the burden born, the mercies great – as Jesus says in the hymn, though the devil sheds My precious blood, takes away My life, all this I suffer for your good… life will from death the victory win, my innocence shall bear your sin – and you are blest forever.

Despite all you’ve done or left undone in this life, despite all the low points, all the things you want to forget, all the things you’d do better if you could but you cannot because it’s too late. Despite all the hurt and suffering and misery you’ve gone through. Despite it all – Jesus says, my innocence bears your sin, bears you up, makes you clean and spotless and pure again, blest forever.

[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world… concerning righteousness, because to the Father I am going away, and you are no longer seeing me.

So Jesus in His Holy Christian Church sends this news of the rescue from sin and death through the Paraclete, the Comforter, the one who comes to our aid, the Holy Spirit. In this world, the Spirit calls and gathers and makes you a member of Christ’s body, His Holy Bride, the Church, giving you the new birth from above through the womb of the Church, the font, with the life-giving water of Holy Baptism. In this Church He daily and richly feeds and nourishes you, and St. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians that the preaching and teaching of God’s Word is like a mother feeding and nourishing her helpless infant. The Word and the blessed Sacrament give life today and for tomorrow as they give forgiveness.

The Word of the Lord speaks forgiveness for sinners. The greatest gift of God is salvation for you, the sinner. The creative and life-giving Word of God also continues to uphold the world, and gives all the gifts of the first article of the creed: body, soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them. Also He gives clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, and thus mothers and fathers and siblings and cousins and grandparents, land, animals, and all that we have. Be convicted by the Holy Spirit every day – that all that God gives, wife, husband, mother, father, children, siblings, friends, good neighbors, are all blessings direct from the hand of a gracious God, to be received each day God gives them to us with joy, thanksgiving, and love for God and for those whom God gives to us.

The 31st chapter of Proverbs is a poem extolling the excellent and Godly wife and mother, with each verse in the poem beginning with each succeeding letter in the Hebrew alphabet. It begins this way:

10 An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life. (Prov. 31:10–12; ESV)

The excellent wife described here is first and foremost you, the Bride of Christ, His holy Church, made pure by His blood, sealed by His resurrection, who will be brought by the Holy Spirit to final consummation at the Last Day in that blest place where even now the saints sing His praises.

The Holy Spirit also comforts us in this poem, that while we live in this life, He seeks to give the blessing of an excellent wife to each husband, and the blessing of an excellent mother to all children (and therefore seeks to give a Godly husband to each wife), and gives the strength, wisdom, and patience to every woman to love, tend, nurture, and be the strong support of husbands and children in Christian families, gifts to be received, as all are, by grace, through faith. And be comforted that where we and our families fail to be as God would have us be, or where things don’t always go as they ideally should because of the corruption of sin in this world, the same Holy Spirit brings comfort and peace in daily repentance, faith in Jesus’ promises, and the love and forgiveness He blesses us with so freely which Jesus won by His cross and His resurrection.

God grant that each of you walk forward in faith toward God and fervent love toward each person in your lives, as God has ordained them to be, until that day when He makes all things new, and we see our Heavenly Bridegroom face to face in His unveiled glory.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +